Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Ehrenreich calls the situation where millions of Americans are low wage workers a state of emergency?


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Ehrenreich seeks to associate the plight of her contemporaries with the much-ballyhooed problems of yore; her chief enemy is complacency, bred by a falsely earned sense of social progress. The point is that we are not so better off today than we were in the days of the muckrakers or of Zola and Dickens; at least, that is, the poor are not. We may be accustomed to thinking of today’s poverty as more a nuisance than the kind of crisis Dickens described in his works. Ehrenreich thinks otherwise. “[This] is how we should see the poverty of so many millions of low-wage Americans,” she writes, in a sense distilling her book into a single passionate entreaty—“as a state of emergency.”